Poorly rated food businesses could improve compliance and increase their food hygiene rating score by switching out traditional paper-based systems for digital food safety tools, a new feasibility study has found.
The five-month project, approved by the Food Standards Agency, involved three restaurants selected by Harrow Council deploying a digital food safety management system from London-based start-up KitchenLogs.
All three businesses – a Japanese restaurant, an Indian restaurant, and an Indian and East African restaurant – had a history of poor hygiene standards, food handling processes or record-keeping.
The Japanese and Indian restaurants both had a Food Hygiene Rating Scheme (FHRS) score of 1 at the start of the project in July 2018, while the other site had 2.
All three took part in the study as paying customers and were given access to KitchenLog’s food safety management system and full training.
Each received an email prompt from the system when data recording was required and was given a four-hour slot to log the information.
Businesses received a report at the end of each day detailing the data that had been logged for that time period. KitchenLogs were able to access the data entered to monitor the business’ compliance and offer assistance.
A new round of inspections was carried out by the Local Authority in November 2018 and there was an improvement in the FHRS score for two out of the three businesses.
The Indian and Indian and East African restaurants increased their ratings from 1 to 4 and 2 to 4 respectively, although Environmental Health Officers did note some minor failings with the structure and handling practices at both premises.
The Japanese restaurant, meanwhile, remained on a FHRS score of 1 due to issues around the handling of raw food and lack of knowledge by staff.
However, one Environmental Health Officer said it “was guilty of practices which would have dragged them down however good the records were”.
It was also observed that there was a lack of management presence on-premise and staff were reluctant to implement the food safety policies put in place to enable the food safety management system to be used effectively.
The EHOs involved noted that the digital records reviewed at premise were clear and that a digital system used properly would help to improve a business’ management score.
Jim McGuire, CEO and co-founder of KitchenLogs (right), told FEJ: “As an ex-chef, getting compliance paperwork done in the kitchen is not the highest priority and is always backdated. Our software intertwines steps together so it reduces the time it takes to do compliance checks dramatically.
“We have reminders, notifications and daily status checks. In larger organisations, they can keep an eye on their businesses in real time. As a whole, our software cuts down paperwork, is time-saving, and the data is easily accessible when requested by the EHO.”
At a post-feasibility study interview with KitchenLogs, Harrow Council EHOs felt there was a real need to get buy-in from the management of restaurants at the start of the digital implementation or else there may be issues in staff transitioning to use the new system.
The FSA has acknowledged that the increase in companies offering digital food safety management systems could be seen as an opportunity for it to lead on a standard that is used as a baseline in the industry.
It is currently leading a major transformation programme called Regulating Our Future (ROF), which aims to modernise and re-shape the regulatory regime for food.
ROF will change the way food businesses are regulated and inspected across England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The FSA aims to have a new system in place by 2020.
KitchenLogs was set up to take the cumbersome back-of-house food safety paperwork and streamline it into a money-saving and easy-to-use app. Customers using the app include Mamma Dough, Meatopia, Steakout Meat House, Smoke & Salt and Indian Gymkhana.
The three restaurants involved in the feasibility study also remain paying customers of the system, with two of them bringing their sister restaurants online as well.